Maarten Altena

Favourite music

The 10 CD's I'am currently listening to (All About Jazz Italia, september 2010)

1) Thelonious Monk: The complete Riverside Recordings (15 compact discs)

The bible for Monk lovers. For example that all time classic session with Pettiford and Kenny Clarke, one of the most beautiful trio recordings in jazz. This box contains almost all Monk compositions and is almost  a biography of the master. Monk is my favorite jazz composer.


2) Joseph Haydn: Sonates Hob. 49,46,20; Helene Couvert (piano),  ZZT030502  Mecenat Musical (Harmonia Mundi)


This is a brilliant recording of clarity and classicism in European music. The piano sound is almost jazzy; the architecture of this music seems very simple but is in fact extremely effective and at the same time very refined. The poetry of this music is something very dear to me.


3) Robert Ashley: Tap Dancing in the Sand,  Ensemble MAE with the voice of Robert Ashley, Unsounds no310.1538.2


Robert Ashley is one of my favorite living composers and on this Cd he is performed by my former group, the Maarten Altena Ensemble (nowadays known under the name of Ensemble MAE).

Especially the way Ashley weaves his words in his music and makes music with words, is unique. “Outcome Inevitable” is an older piece that shows his music  without words: transparent, logic and beautiful.


4) Miles Davis: The prestige Albums (14 compact discs)


This box contains the “early” Miles Davis who was on his way to his unique trumpet sound. In jazz music I like the process of the development of sound. When the sound of the individual musician is completely “there”,  the very process of the experiment is often finished: you then have “style”. In Miles Davis’ case the process has been longer than any other musician. This makes him unique for me, apart from the poetry of his singing trumpet.


5) Luciano Berio: Eindrücke, Orchestre National de France/Pierre Boulez, Erato ECD 88151


A beautiful piece with unconventional use of melodic lines. The melody is the source of the chords that are used.  Strange ending and fantastic orchestration.


6) Morton Feldman: Coptic Light, New World Symphony Orchestra/Michael Tilson Thomas, Argo 448 513-2


Tapestry of sound–layers that slowly move into endless variations: music that seems to stand almost still, but in fact is very active by the way the orchestra is used.


7) Louis Andriessen: Symfonie voor losse snaren (Symphony for open strings), Caecilia Consort/Ed Spanjaard,Babel 9267-6DDD


Open strings that are all differently tuned (scordatura) than usual.  This is a  piece that sounds different from everything  I know. No hand is used on the strings, every note comes from an open string (and so from bowing only) and the result is magic. Strong idea realized with ultimate precision.


8) Monteverdi: L’Orfeo, Favola in musica/Gabriel Garrido, Teatro Massimo K617066


This is music that I must listen to from time to time, just to remember how a lot of things in western music did start. Very good performance.


 9) Varese: the complete works, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra- ASKO Ensemble/Riccardo Chailly, Decca460 208-2


One of my all time favorite composers  performed in a superior way.


10) Gilius van Bergeijk: Volume One, X-OR 07


A beautiful collection of pieces by one of Holland’s strangest composers.

Van Bergeijk is a master of concepts and of non-digital electronics.


Listen to this music and be surprised!

See also: www.allabout.jazz/maartenaltena